*The following article contains excerpts from an interview originally conducted in Spanish, with both versions on display for your enlightenment.
Mexico’s legendary rock group Café Tacvba is returning to Sacramento on Sunday September 2 for a sure shot night of Latin rock excellence inside the Crest Theatre. With multiple Latin Grammys and a Grammy for Best Latin Rock, Urban or Alternative Album in 2004, Rubén Isaac Albarran Ortega, Emmanuel Del Real, José “Joselo” Alfredo Rangel Arroyo and Enrique Rangel Arroyo, collectively known as Café Tacvba, have been one of Latin America’s most important group of visionaries in the last few decades.
On the verge of celebrating 30 years together, guitarist and vocalist Joselo spoke with Sacramento Press in regard to the band’s continuous standout success across the globe, the power of influences and their latest album, “Jei Beibi” (pronounced: “hey bay-bee.”)
In regard to capturing their ever-adventurous approach to music, Joselo described the process as a self-fulfilling approach that encompasses their multi-dimensional experiences.
“Somos cuatro individuos con intereses musicales y que a la hora de hacer un disco, pues, mas bien vemos hacia dentro,” dijo Joselo. “Primero individualmente porque cada uno de nosotros compone individualmente, y luego como grupo – lo que reflejan esas canciones pues es lo que estamos viviendo como personas no? como personas en este momento en especifico.”
“We are four individuals with music interests, that when the time comes to make a project, well, we look within,” said Joselo. “First individually, because we each compose individually, and then together as a group – and what those songs reflect, well, is what we’re living as humans, you know? As humans in this specific moment.”
With songs like “Futuro,” the group takes on death with a pleasantly spiteful chant suited for a march against all factors that may prevent us from seeing our own future. A well-thought anthem for anyone who needs to hear the message, “La muerte dijo si, Yo digo que no, La vida dijo no, Yo digo que si,” which translates to “Death said yes, I say no, Life said no, I say yes.”
Café Tacvba has been a lasting illustration of how to fight the status quo with style, from their on-stage garments which cross gender norms, to their own style of music, which cross genres with an infusion of rock, punk, folk, electronic, hip-hop and Mexico’s indigenous sounds-unlike any other band has done so successfully.
For the many Latin Americans who learned English by listening to British and North American bands, due to their well-funded distribution deals, we have reached a point in time where the opposite affect is now possible with groups like Café Tacvba. With digital platforms leading the movement, there becomes a simple bridge between curiosity and an interest to delve into a new flavor of expression.
“Nos damos cuenta que las culturas pueden enriquecerse mas que tener diferencias,” dijo Joselo. “Yo creo que eso seria el mundo ideal, el que me gustaría vivir, no? En donde pudiéramos compartir nuestras diferencias en ves de pelearnos o de alejarnos, de unirnos mas, no?”
“We become aware that cultures can enrich each other more than just have differences,” said Joselo. “I believe that would be an ideal world, one that I would like to live in, you know? Where we could share our differences instead of fighting and dividing each other, to unite ourselves more.”
As Spotify, iTunes and the Billboard charts begin to see more Latin artists emerge by popular demand, there becomes hope that music fans of all backgrounds are sharing the music with each other. In speaking with Joselo, he mentions he has seen a gradual interest from non-Spanish speaking fans, but still not a significant amount.
“Que eso seria ideal,” expreso Joselo. “Si pensamos en halgo que a mi me gustaría, me gustaría eso, que habría 50 porciento de personas que no hablan Ingles, y 50 porciento que hablan.”[En sus conciertos.]
“That would be ideal,” said Joselo. “If we’re talking about something that I would like, that’s something I would like, for there to be 50 percent of people that don’t speak English and 50 percent that do.” [At their concerts.]
However, when Café Tacvba first formed, Joselo’s views may have been slightly different. All four members of the group met in college, where graphic design, industrial design and civic design filled most of their day-to-day lives. It was their professors who instilled in them a desire to represent their own Mexican culture in the music they would come to make, based on the cultural lessons they were conducting in design.
“Yo no puedo hacer una silla igual para un Mexicano, como para un Latino Americano, que para un Ingles, porque las medidas son distintas,” expreso Joselo.”Los gustos de ellos es distinto, todo es distinto, entonces si quieres hacer un diseño para la gente que esta en tu país, pues no puedes ser una copia de otros lados.”
“I can’t make a chair for a Mexican, like I would for a Latin American, or for an Englishman, because the measurements are distinct,” said Joselo. “Their preferences are distinct, everything is distinct, so if you want to make a design for the people in your country, well then you can’t be a copy of other places.”
Rooted in these important cultural lessons, Café Tacvba has remained true to themselves by pushing Spanish genres forward and breaking musical barriers that benefit any listener’s attention span. While their show on Sunday will feature the group’s greatest hits, songs from ‘Jei Beibi’ will be prominent in the set.
For the soft and self-reflective tunes that come along such as their song “Diente de Leon,” with lyrics that call for the kind of peace that allows someone to listen to their own true self, ‘Jei Beibi’ also includes songs that praise love and its definitive return, such as the upbeat “1-2-3.” Songs like “Me Gusta Tu Manera” share the group’s ability to experiment with soundscapes without losing touch of their most beloved features, often found in Rubén’s powerful voice.
In the end, Joselo believes ‘Jei Beibi’s greatest appeal is its ability to casually welcome a listener to the complex details hidden in the lyrics, while always managing to feel free.
“Tal ves tenemos como una metodología, a la hora de empezar a trabajar en un disco, una forma en que estructuramos nuestro trabajo o estructuramos los tiempos,” expreso Joselo. “Todo eso tiene que ver con lo que aprendimos en la universidad. Claro, usado en una manera muy muy muy libre, nada académica, si no mucho mas libre. Osea tomamos todo lo que nos sirve para poder hacer nuestra music lo mas libre posible, lo mas artística posible.”
“Perhaps we have a method, when the time comes to work on a new album, a form in which we structure our work or structure the times,” said Joselo. “All of that has to do with what we learned in college. Of course, used in a very very very free manner, not academic at all, but rather super free. So, we use everything we possibly can to make our music the most free it can be, the most artistic it can be.”
For more information on Café Tacvba and their current ‘Niu Güeis Tour,’ visit Tacvba.com.mx.
For tickets to Sunday’s show at The Crest Theater, visit CrestSacramento.com/event.